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Palo Alto looks to revamp street-sweeping program

Original post made on May 30, 2014

Palo Alto's residential streets may soon get a bit leafier under a sweeping change proposed by the city's Public Works Department. The proposal includes reducing the frequency of street-sweeping services in residential areas from once a week to every other week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 30, 2014, 11:44 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Street sweeping is useless - regardless of the frequency - if the sweeper can't get to the curbs because of parked cars. There is no mention in the article of banning cars from being parked on street sweeping days or fining them if they are. How will this affect residential streets where people can sell the space in front of their home for parking? Will this be ignored by them?

BTW, on my street, the sweepers are often here before 8.00 am, before the ban is in operation.


Posted by PA Lifer, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Trying to find something to complain about here. Can't.... find....anything....


Posted by Herb Borock, a resident of another community
on May 30, 2014 at 4:57 pm

The current monthly residential refuse rate includes $6.66 each month for street sweeping. If the cost for street sweeping is cut in half, then Proposition 218 requires the residential refuse rate to be reduced by $3.33 per month.


Posted by no parking on street sweeping days, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2014 at 5:03 pm

I agree that street parking should be banned on street sweeping days. A friend of mine got a $60 ticket for parking on the street on the street sweeping day. They take street cleaning seriously. If moving cars off the street makes street sweeping cheaper and more effective, then lets do it.


Posted by Roger, a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 30, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Excuse me but has any one noticed we have way more trees than any of out neighbors.


Posted by Good Idea, a resident of Duveneck School
on May 30, 2014 at 7:36 pm

We don't need weekly sweeping during non-leaf season. Re moving cars off the street during sweeping day, what about people who have three cars and no room in their garage because square footage is so expensive here so they use it for storage?


Posted by no parking on street sweeping days, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Palo Alto has way more street parking space than San Francisco and they make it work. The city doesn't sweep every street on the same day. Just park around the corner on sweeping day. Or sell that junk in your garage that you don't use anyway.


Posted by Leo, a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Those of us who live on streets lined with Modesto Ash street trees have a lot of leaves drop in the spring, way after February. The trees leaf out, then there is a rain, and they drop their first crop of leaves. Are we supposed to have gutters filled with leaves for two weeks, because it isn't "leaf season?" Would there be provision for streets with Modesto Ash city street trees?


Posted by So Special, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 9:28 pm

@Leo: Umm, probably not.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2014 at 9:33 am

> The report also notes that potentially displaced street-sweeping
> employees "have been offered and are receiving cross-training that
> would help them qualify for open positions with the City."

City employees should not have guaranteed jobs for life. The City should be able to simply lay them off, just like everyone else who works in the private sector.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2014 at 9:49 am

@leo - I know a really good city manager who could cut down those trees for you. BTW, if your gardner wasn't blowing all the leaves into the street, then the drains wouldn't clog.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Some sections in our area are cursed with the dreaded camphor trees which start heavy leaf drop anytime starting February - and this year into May. Then comes the yellow powder then we get the 'sticks' and now we are getting the small seeds or whatever they are. Whoever planted these things was nuts. So the City can't make a blanket
leaf time, not that it even knows what is going on. In the flood of '98 - February, the leaf drop was so bad it further exacerbated the drain back up. It was a mess - worse we've ever had.And if residents have to do it, the elderly wlll have to also hire more help to clean the gutters as will most residents. Who thought this up?


Posted by Jim, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Some sections in our area are cursed with the dreaded camphor trees which start heavy leaf drop anytime starting February - and this year into May. Then comes the yellow powder then we get the 'sticks' and now we are getting the small seeds or whatever they are. Whoever planted these things was nuts. So the City can't make a blanket
leaf time, not that it even knows what is going on. In the flood of '98 - February, the leaf drop was so bad it further exacerbated the drain back up. It was a mess - worse we've ever had.And if residents have to do it, the elderly wlll have to also hire more help to clean the gutters as will most residents. Who thought this up?


Posted by Jim, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Some sections in our area are cursed with the dreaded camphor trees which start heavy leaf drop anytime starting February - and this year into May. Then comes the yellow powder then we get the 'sticks' and now we are getting the small seeds or whatever they are. Whoever planted these things was nuts. So the City can't make a blanket
leaf time, not that it even knows what is going on. In the flood of '98 - February, the leaf drop was so bad it further exacerbated the drain back up. It was a mess - worse we've ever had.And if residents have to do it, the elderly wlll have to also hire more help to clean the gutters as will most residents. Who thought this up?


Posted by Jim, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Some sections in our area are cursed with the dreaded camphor trees which start heavy leaf drop anytime starting February - and this year into May. Then comes the yellow powder then we get the 'sticks' and now we are getting the small seeds or whatever they are. Whoever planted these things was nuts. So the City can't make a blanket
leaf time, not that it even knows what is going on. In the flood of '98 - February, the leaf drop was so bad it further exacerbated the drain back up. It was a mess - worse we've ever had.And if residents have to do it, the elderly wlll have to also hire more help to clean the gutters as will most residents. Who thought this up?


Posted by Jim, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Some sections in our area are cursed with the dreaded camphor trees which start heavy leaf drop anytime starting February - and this year into May. Then comes the yellow powder then we get the 'sticks' and now we are getting the small seeds or whatever they are. Whoever planted these things was nuts. So the City can't make a blanket
leaf time, not that it even knows what is going on. In the flood of '98 - February, the leaf drop was so bad it further exacerbated the drain back up. It was a mess - worse we've ever had.And if residents have to do it, the elderly wlll have to also hire more help to clean the gutters as will most residents. Who thought this up?


Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 1, 2014 at 6:43 am

I'll bet most home owners are able bodied enough to sweep up their own leaves during the non-leaf season if it really bothers them that much. I do it all the time with a rake (no leaf blower) and it's no big deal. In my case it takes about ten minutes a week for my 75 foot wide lot and I have the dreaded camphor and a red maple.


Posted by Harry, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

Palo Alto has gone overboard with all the planting of trees. Moderation is key and we wouldn't have all the termite problems in Palo Alto either if the city did not plant so many trees all over the place. The cost of maintenance and street sweeping would go down if the city just cut down half of the trees. They crate a nuisance with allergy sufferers too and all the yellow powder on our sidewalks and porches is a pain. PLEASE cut some trees down Palo Alto!


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2014 at 11:37 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Neal, you should run for office.

In the Spring, I almost fill 2 (64G) Green carts with Pine (and Oak) debris from nearby trees. None of them mine. I sweep almost daily as there are pine cones and needles in front of my yard, that pedestrians might stumble upon and sue. (they probably will not win in the end... BUT I have to hire a Lawyer to be sure, so I lose anyway)


Posted by Need Advil, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 1, 2014 at 8:14 pm

We need to outsource a lot more than leaf sweeping. This is long overdue.

For those people with tree that drop leaves outside of "leaf season" tell your gardner to rake the leaves and put them into your yard waste can instead of blowing them into the street.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2014 at 9:25 pm

The Sycamores start dropping leaves in May. The trees in Palo Alto
are in terrible condition, especially the Magnolias, due to drought
and a dropping water table. At the same time overbuilding is creating congestion,pollution, ugliness all over the city. Where these
trends intersect is dewatering for basement construction which the
City has not restricted. Deep excavations for megaoffice underparked projects Downtown which were approved for dewatering if necessary, appear to not be hitting water while we see the trees increasingly dying off. Natural and physical constraints are all ignored as City Hall somehow thinks it can define its own future.


Posted by litebug, a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2014 at 11:09 am

Former resident I now live in Oregon and would bet there are more trees here than in P.A. The way they do it here is that people put their leaves out in piles or hedgerows on the sides of the streets. They are told to leave a little space between the piles and the sidewalk and especially not to block any drain places (and we have a lot more rain here too). In Fall the city will announce what days they will pick up leaves in your area, usually 3-4 times during Fall. The leaves are scooped up and put into big trucks and taken to the recycling center for composting. I live on a residential dead-end street so parking on the street isn't an issue here but must be nearer downtown. I'm not sure how things work down there but, however it is, it all seems to work very smoothly and, surprise!, people do cooperate with putting their leaves out in the street correctly. To the person who said anyone should be able to rake their own leaves: you seem to forget the difference in physical abilities and the difference in lot sizes and what kind of landscape there is. I have a quarter acre, very little lawn, all planting areas, so a leaf blower is minimally effective, if that. There is a lot of cleaning by hand and small rake, bending into hard-to-reach spots on contoured surfaces. It's not like raking a flat lawn. I managed this the first year or 2 but no longer can. I'm 75 and I have spinal issues and fibromyalgia now. As for spring, there is no clean-up as the stuff I find a nuisance wouldn't be very amenable to it. I get a lot of pollen, esp. from the conifers, and a lot of tiny refuse from (I guess!) Japanese maples and whatever Devil trees my neighbor has up against the fence (they never stop dropping something). I don't recall having any problems with the P.A. system in 38 years a homeowner there.


Posted by Michele, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 2, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Please tell me you are joking about wanting to cut down trees. Our trees are what make this town so beautiful and unique - the name "Palo Alto" means tall tree, remember?

Also, if you can't find a gardener who will put your leaves in the bins, let me recommend Joel Tobar. I never even had to tell him. He just does it, along with lots of other good stuff.

I agree that parking should not be allowed on the streets on street sweeping days. It works in every other town. You might just have to park a block or two away for one day.


Posted by Getting Smart, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Re "The change would only be effective during non-leaf season, between mid-February and mid-October."

You've got to be kidding. In what section of town is mid-February through mid-October considered "non-leaf season"? I guess only in those section of town without city-planned street trees. The Magnolias on my street drop leaves and cones all summer long and the summer bay winds make a real mess of things up and down the block. I love the street trees in Palo Alto and think the existing canopy is a true asset, but since the city planted these trees, the city needs to take some responsibility for managing them. The city doesn't water or fertilizing our trees, the homeowners do if they care, just as we undertake proper pruning after the city tree pruners, who's only job seems to be to keep overhanging branches from hitting garbage trucks, botch the job or ignore what needs to be done to keep the trees healthy. Is it asking too much for the City to at least clean up the mess they created by choosing trees not well suited as street trees? Any street with Magnolias needs weekly street cleaning weekly during the spring-summer season. If the existing street cleaning schedule needs to be adjusted (and I'm not convinced it does), it should be based on the type of trees planted in each section of town.


Posted by HateHarry, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 2, 2014 at 2:29 pm

MORE TREES - not less!


Posted by DGN, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Why are we keeping the PA city employees that clean our downtown sidewalks? The University Avenue sidewalks are filthy! If any street work should be outsourced, it's the sidewalk cleaning jobs. PA workers do an abysmal job of keeping our downtown sidewalks clean. Menlo Park, Los Altos and Los Gatos' sidewalks are immaculate. Let's hire whoever cleans their walkways.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 3, 2014 at 1:06 am

So once more the outsourcing craze is helping out nation's rush to the bottom. Now a company will bid and try to squeeze as much profit out of the deal, while paying their workers as little as possible. And those workers will be slowly driving the street sweepers around with a high view into our yards and homes.

It would be a case of instuctional justice if home break ins and burglaries increase.


Posted by Lazlo, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Guess we now know how the city manager is going to pay for the 17 new managers he plans on hiring announced in a May press release . With each new manager is slated to receive a $100,000+ yearly salary, the cost reduction of $649,000 and elimination of the street sweeping division of Public Works won't even begin to pay for the new managers salaries and compensation packages. Residents now have a working program that actually provides a valuable service and instead will be burdened with costly managers who provide no service if the service is eliminated. City Manager Keene continues to build his "shadow organization" of managers who only bilk resident taxpayers and provide no contribution to making our city a better place to live. The City of Palo Alto's current ratio of one manager for every three working employees is unsustainable and disgraceful.


Posted by ugh- enough trees!, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 3, 2014 at 7:23 pm

I agree with Harry- we need to cut down some trees...especially the ones that are so close to telephone poles. Sycamore and Magnolias are the worst for dropping leaves. The city put no thought into planting anything and now we have dirty sidewalks and streets full of leaves year round! Also agree with Lazlo- the managers do nothing but get paid.


Posted by Getting Smart, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2014 at 8:23 pm

The more I think about this the more upset I get. Palo Alto's coffers are full, why is there a need to cut back on this valuable and necessary community service? Reducing/outsourcing services while hiring more managers makes no sense at all.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 7, 2014 at 7:32 am

In the PA Weekly there was a flyer for managing tree leaves to reduce the damage to drains during storms. How does the "business idea" of reducing street sweeping conform to the SCV Water District plans to manage the drains during flooding?

There is a disconnect between flood control and reduced street sweeping. Who is in charge of this plan?

I know on my street the management of leaves and clean streets is an on-going job. My green bin is full every week - and I have no control over the majority of trees producing the leaves.
The city arborist is responsible for keeping the street trees well groomed, no dead parts, and tidy. They say they have no money for that.

PA needs a conservation king who can take the disparate activities that combine for tree maintenance and leaf clean-up to control flooding.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm

The next topic that goes with this is VECTOR CONTROL. There are some home owners that do not seem to realize that they are responsible for keeping the area around their property clean and weed / leaf free. If it is on the side of the house on a corner that they do not see every day then they let it go. If there is a fence on the property they only clean inside the fence - the rest is left to build up decaying leaves on the street side of the fence. They do not even put the leaves in the street for the street cleaner to clean up. This is where vector control comes in - homes for rats.

The city needs to publish the expectations on what a property owner is responsible for - both inside and outside of the fence on the property. Living next to people who do not clean up is now going to result in some calls to the city - enforce the clean-up rules.

My brother lives in Oregon - Portland area. If you do not keep the street picked up and clean then you are notified and you better get cracking on the clean-up activity.

Also tree maintenance along the street so that branches are not in the walking area of the side walk. People are not suppose to get a free ride on this topic - if you are a property owner then keep the property clean and picked up.

Come winter time when the leaves start dropping then it is overwhelming to the capacity of the green bin for the "street tree" leaves. Guess what - we get fined if we pay some one to keep the street trees well groomed. Go figure on who thinks up this stuff.


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